CBS Entertainment President Glenn Geller was repeatedly forced to defend his network from reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills Wednesday over the network’s lack of racial diversity in its primetime programming.
The flack came over the network’s six new shows airing this fall, all of which feature white male leading actors. CBS’ fall slate includes a reboot of MacGyver, dramas Bull and Pure Genius, comedies The Great Indoors and Man With A Plan and Kevin James vehicle Kevin Can Wait.
“What message does it send,” a reporter asked CBS entertainment president Glenn Geller, “that the leads of your shows in the fall are all heterosexual white men?”
“I’m really glad this question came up first because we’re very mindful at CBS about the importance of diversity and inclusion and I’m glad we’re having this conversation first,” Geller responded.
However, according to Entertainment Weekly, the diversity (or lack thereof) of CBS’ fall lineup was the subject of the first four questions thrown his way. Geller reportedly said a variation of the phrase, “We need to do better” at least seven times.
“We need to do better and we know it. In terms of leads, we are definitely less diverse this year than last year, and like I said, we need to do better,” Geller continued. “But in terms of overall diversity in our new shows, we were actually more diverse this year than last year, and I think that that’s our commitment to diversity. It is ongoing.”
Geller noted that CBS will be home to the first transgender actress to play a series regular on a major network this fall, when Laverne Cox toplines the legal thriller Doubt.
“I think things are definitely shifting and in terms of LGBT representation,” Geller added. “We have more LGBT characters on this coming year than ever before.”
Geller, for his part, promised to produce more diversity on the network in the near future, according to EW.
“I understand certainly the inclination to look at the screen and just look at leads and say, ‘Well, what’s going on? Why are you less diverse?’ But I do think that when we’re talking about diversity and inclusion, we have to also look behind the camera and there we are doing very well. Our writers are more diverse than last year, our directors – and we’re not finished booking every slot but we’re on track. We continue to put additional resources and financial support into our CBS Diversity Institute and that covers many different parts of diversity for us.”
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